Vina Lindley – Chairperson
A transplant to Maine, Viña Lindley grew up on Martha’s Vineyard. As a kid, she wanted nothing to do with vegetables and her favorite fruit came in the form of strawberry and grape flavored skittles.
Viña’s undying love of vegetables came later in life when she discovered how good food could be when you grow and harvest it yourself. She wishes that as a child her school had had a garden, not only because it might have improved her diet but also her grades. Like so many other young people, Viña struggled as a child sitting still in a classroom but has always loved to learn and has seen first hand the positive outcome hands-on learning can have for students who learn with their hands.
Despite early struggles as a student, Viña made her way through an undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts and then a MS from Antioch New England in Environmental Education. Currently Viña works for University of Maine, Cooperative Extension as a Food Systems professional. For three years she managed the FoodCorps program in Maine and now remains a close partner. Viña is a strong believer in the power of outdoor education and is so humbled by all the great work happening in schools across the state that are using gardens and outdoor classrooms to connect students to standards-based lessons that they can use for life.
Viña has served on the Maine School Garden Network for several years, including as the organization’s chairperson. She is an incredible asset to the school garden and farm to school effort in the Northeast, and we are so fortunate to have Viña on our team!
Richard Hodges – Vice Chairperson
Richard is the Founder and Program Manager of ReTreeUS, a Maine-based program that establishes educational orchards in school, “growing trees of fruit and seeds of thought” www.retreeus.org. He is a Maine native who has also lived in Vermont and California. He has decades of experience as an outdoor educator, farmer and arborist. When Richard isn’t writing grants or working in orchards and gardens he is likely to be surfing or xc skiing. Richard feels passionately about educating younger generations about environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture; “a brighter future starts with the youth and the soil”. Those who know him often think of kale when his name is mentioned
Willie Grenier – Treasurer
Willie Sawyer Grenier has worked with/and for Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) since 1998, but her passion for agriculture in mainstream education is much deeper. In college she served as a 4-H leader and President of the Horseman’s Club. After graduating from UMaine with a degree in Vocational Agriculture and certification to teach Secondary Science, she taught for several years in Maine and the Maritimes before her destiny led her to study (and then teach) the art of floristry. In 1997 she discovered AITC and soon her volunteer role emerged into a part-time position. The organization has grown every year, especially with the addition of the Agricultural License Plate in 2007. Now the MAITC program is funding grants annually, writing curriculum, training pre-service and in-service teachers, and last year impacted over 200,000 Maine school children in grades Pre K – 12. She was recently promoted to President of National Agriculture in the Classroom. Willie is pleased to serve as Maine School Garden Network Treasurer and work closely with the coordinator to secure and manage funding to help the organization fulfill the overwhelming requests from schools across the state that are using a school garden project to teach across the curricula, while fostering stewardship, sustainability, good nutrition and more in the process!
Anna Libby – Secretary
Anna Libby grew up here in Maine and enjoyed helping in her family’s garden. At the time, Anna’s favorite things to grow were claytonia and calendula. Now Anna gardens on the same piece of land, though she prefers to grow peas and tomatoes. She keeps chickens and bees as well.
Anna works at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardners Association (MOFGA) as the Educational Programs Coordinator, helping to provide programming for gardeners and homesteaders. She has worked there since 2013. Previously, she worked with volunteers at other non-profits in Maine and served two years with AmeriCorps*VISTA. She has served on the Maine School Garden Network board since 2016. We are so fortunate to have Anna!!
Jon was a teacher involved in school gardens for 27 years. He helped to found the Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School. His last 10 years he was the garden coordinator at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. He has worked as a mentor through Farm to School for the Falmouth School district and Walker school in Liberty. Recently he is volunteering at the middle school and elementary schools in Belfast. We are so thankful to have Jon’s experience and knowledge on our team!
My love of gardening began back in the 1970’s while living in rural Vermont and has grown steadily through the years. When my husband and I moved to Maine in 1987, we immediately started vegetable and flower gardens at our new house. Word got out that I loved gardening at
the school where I worked as a Guidance Counselor. When the building was renovated in 1998-99, the principal asked if I’d put in some flower beds to brighten up the front of the building. When I said yes, she handed mea $300.00 Walmart Grant application and that was the beginning of the school gardening program at Manchester School. Twenty years later, we have three flower gardens, nine raised beds, a small fruit tree orchard, a hoophouse, garden shed and composting system. The students have been involved in all aspects of the gardens. Over the years, I’ve found convincingly that the students get so much out of learning science in a
hands-on way, having to problem solve and cooperate with their peers, while also learning the invaluable skills of growing and harvesting their own food and learning how to be responsible stewards of the land.
After retiring from my counseling job in 2013, I decided to apply for the Master Gardener Program in Cumberland County, something I’d always wanted to do. The program gave me extended knowledge and skills that I continue to use as the volunteer co-leader of the Manchester Gardens for Learning. In 2014 I joined the Maine School Garden Network Board because of my deep belief in the value school gardens have for students, staff and families. I also bring to the table direct knowledge and experience with the obstacles and challenges facing educators who support and want to be involved with them.
I think I grew up spending more time outdoors than in, and I’ve always had a love of nature, animals and plants. My family did a lot of gardening, hiking and camping, and I spent even more time in the woods during many years in the Girl Scouts. I decided to make the outdoors my career, so I went to college in Michigan and studied environmental education, horticulture, and then veterinary medicine. After moving to Maine, I did volunteer nature guiding for kids at Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary in Lewiston, and created a school garden for my son’s second grade class. Years later, when I saw a presentation about the successful Troy Howard Middle School garden program, I got inspired to do something to spread the benefits of school gardens to kids around the state. So in 2008 I helped Jessica Bean re-start the Maine School Garden Network, which had been active in the early 2000’s, but had lost its leadership. Since then MSGN has continued to grow, and we work hard to enlighten schools around Maine about the wonderful learning and fun a school garden program can offer their students. I believe its one of the most rewarding ways that a school can enrich their curriculum!
Kelsey is the program assistant for Maine Agriculture in the Classroom. Her work is focused on providing resources to schools and educators on how they can incorporate more agriculture into their curriculum. She has a degree in Community Health from the University of Maine at Farmington. Previously she worked at two different healthy community coalitions around the state and comes to the Maine School Garden Network with a public health lens. Kelsey is passionate about educating students and the community on where their food comes from and increasing the knowledge and awareness around the importance of locally sourced foods and good nutrition. We think she’s pretty awesome!
Rebecca is the Children’s Program Coordinator at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston, which means she gets to dig in the dirt and cook with kids quite often. She was born and raised in the Garden State but came to Maine for college and never left! Rebecca is happiest when she is outside, and she loves to share her excitement about growing food and taking care of the environment with all her favorite kiddos.
A recent graduate from the University of Maine at Orono, Jared Grenier, is the FoodCorps service member at RSU 40. He is based in Waldoboro and spends his time at district schools, including Miller School and Medomak Middle School.
Jared is a native of Albion and a graduate of Lawrence High School in Fairfield. “FoodCorps places service members in high-need areas across the country,” he said. Jared’s inspiration to serve in FoodCorps came from his family. His mother is the executive director of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, and he grew up on a farm and participated in 4-H. The idea behind FoodCorps is to provide kids a connection to healthy food at an early age. “We are addressing kids’ connection to healthy food, hoping to establish good habits early on,” he said, quoting the organization’s co-founder, Cecily Upton.
Jared is a new board member to Maine School Garden Network but has worked with the board for years through Maine Ag in the Classroom. His favorite program is the MSGN gratitude tree given to schools around the state. His passion for gardening and cooking came at a young age, through a combination of love for health, teaching, and the outdoors.
Yvette is a native Mainer who found a passion for environmental science through Girl Scouts, environmental camps, and influential science teachers throughout her youth. She strongly believes in hands on learning and outdoor education to instill a lifelong appreciation for the natural world. She holds a BA in Geosciences and a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development from the University of Southern Maine. Currently, Yvette is a Promotional Coordinator for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. She assists farmers in labor needs, sustainable farming practices, and assists beginning farmers find resources. Yvette is excited to join MSGN to inspire and build confidence in the next generation of environmental stewards and agricultural professionals. In her free time, she enjoys overnight kayaking adventures on the Maine Island Trail, road biking to farmers’ markets, and plogging.
Erika Verrier – MSGN Program Director
As a Maine native, she has enjoyed gardening all her life and now shares it with her two young children. Erika is a volunteer in her community and an advocate for education and healthy food choices. She feels that it is our civic duty to teach children to grow their own food and to appreciate where it comes from. With a passion for the outdoors, she achieved her BS in Ecology at Unity College and immediately went to work initiating Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in a large commercial hydroponic greenhouse here in Maine. Her leadership and experience in IPM focused holistically from seed to fruit and allowed her the opportunity to learn and network with leading plant pathologists throughout the US. She advocated for reduce risk pesticides and alternative control methods. Her focus on risk mitigation and preventative methods has allowed her to develop a passion for biological controls and the use of beneficial insects. She loves to share this experience with the educational gardens throughout Maine to promote a safe, sustainable and fun way to help children overcome challenges in their garden. Feel free to say hello or contact her anytime for help at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Erhard – MSGN Development Director
Michelle has a passion for growing, eating, and sharing her love of food. Although she grew up helping in her family’s kitchen in New Hampshire, it wasn’t until she was an undergraduate at Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT when Michelle discovered her deep interest in food systems. She fell in love with the school’s educational farm and went on to volunteer on several organic farms before serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Saint Louis University. While in Missouri, Michelle learned about urban agriculture and the challenges of community food security. She stayed in St. Louis as the coordinator of City Greens, a nonprofit, local food market working to increase the accessibility of quality, affordable foods.
After a few years in St. Louis, Michelle was excited to return to her native New England. Set along the scenic Saco River in her year of FoodCorps service with Rippling Waters in Standish, Maine, Michelle strengthened the local school district’s garden programs, taught cooking and nutrition education, and helped grow culinary connoisseurs in the middle school Garden Club. After the year of service, Michelle stayed on with FoodCorps in the great state of Maine as the fellow where she has been able to deepen statewide connections and provide support to service members school gardens across Maine. Recently MSGN hired Michelle, our former chairperson, to work as our new Development Director. We are excited to grow the network with Michelle’s enthusiasm and experience!